Maryborough numbers

 
  Simbera Train Controller

The Horsham scenario is an interesting one as you don't want to say "let's re-instate the passenger service" without understanding what's driving it. i.e. Is it to allow people from Melbourne to do a day return to Horsham? (One of the negatives about the current Maryborough timetable). Or is it to allow Horsham residents to commute to Ararat (or even Ballarat) for the day?
Ballast_Plough

I would say your primary market would be Stawell-Ararat, Stawell-Ballarat and Stawell-Horsham.  You'll also get a fair bit of Ararat-Horsham and a little of Ballarat-Horsham (plus a lot of say Friday night footy trips all the way to Melbourne) but IMO it's the smaller legs that will get the most patronage - there is HEAPS of cross-pollenation between Ararat and Stawell and a fast train service would capture a lot of this travel and induce even more. Right now there just flat out are not enough houses in Ararat to house the people needed to work there (which also means housing is ridiculously expensive for such a small town) and commuting from Stawell is an option many would consider.

I do want to say that I agree with woodford etc who say it's not viable because of the break-of-gauge.  If it were a simple extension it would be justified, but it isn't, and the cost of gauge-converting VLos for such a leg would be hard to justify. It's not unheard of for such hard-to-justify extensions to go ahead, a la Maryborough, but it takes a level of pork-barreling that will never happen in such safe seats.

If, however, Victoria wants to eventually move to SG for most of its country lines (which I think IS a good idea, long-term) I think Ballarat-Ararat would be a good choice to do early in the piece, partially because of the potential for then extending the service to Horsham. But unless and until you do that, it's probably not viable.  It's certainly not viable to run it via Geelong.

As to the pathing issues - I don't really know, but to be honest adding a few more passing loops (if they would even be needed with only a few services per day) is low on the list of obstacles.

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  Ballast_Plough Chief Commissioner

Location: Lilydale, Vic
Break of gauge is probably not a huge issue - there isn't much difference between jumping off a train at Ararat and onto a bus as opposed to jumping from one train to another. The only way to avoid that is travelling all the way via Cressy but we know that adds time for passengers between Melbourne - Horsham (not an issue for short legs that you described).

Reality is that probably nothing much may change until (if) the Mildura line goes SG via Nth Geelong. At that point you could also convert Ballarat - Ararat which not only gives a continuous gauge service west from Ballarat, it also allows westbound freights to travel via Cressy and eastbound via Beaufort to ease capacity / pathing issues in those sections.
  Simbera Train Controller

Break of gauge is probably not a huge issue - there isn't much difference between jumping off a train at Ararat and onto a bus as opposed to jumping from one train to another. The only way to avoid that is travelling all the way via Cressy but we know that adds time for passengers between Melbourne - Horsham (not an issue for short legs that you described).
Ballast_Plough

To clarify I'm not worried about passengers having to change trains, that's a minor inconvenience as you say - no different to changing to a bus. In fact with the BG on Platform 2 and the SG on Platform 1 it would be even easier.

My concern is entirely financial - having to effectively purchase new VLos (you could gauge-convert existing ones but then you'd need to replace them, given current shortages, so it's much of a muchness really) solely for this project would just make it too expensive.

That said, I'm guessing that's pretty much all you'd need as far as upfront capital costs go, right? Stawell and Horsham stations are already up to scratch because of the Overland, and I'd imagine the track is maintained to a fairly high standard given its importance - maybe just some signalling upgrades? I suppose it depends what speed you'd want to run at?
  xxxxlbear Token Booking Clerk

Location: Geelong
If people want to try something really radical, why not run Ballarat  Maryborough shuttles that connect with train services to/from Melbourne at Ballarat?

That could easily be done with a 2 x V/locity carriage set, and if timetabled correctly (say 2 return shuttle trips AM, and 2-3 return PM trips), it could enable people to get to/from  Ballarat and Melbourne for short trips, and allow Melbournians to have a day trip to Maryborough..and hopefully improve on the 40 or so paying passengers that V/line currently gets per service.
  Ballast_Plough Chief Commissioner

Location: Lilydale, Vic
Mr. Bear - there's a few threads now rehashing the concept of pass services between Geelong - Maryborough. On one of them I even drafted a timetable for a Sprinter x 2 which pretty much connected with Warrnambool / Melb trains at Geelong and Ararat / Melbourne trains at Ballarat.